Leading with an absent leader

Leading with an absent leader

Have you ever had a boss that just wasn’t there? (Maybe that’s your wish!) Perhaps they are physically present but are not engaged in your relationship or the job that they are holding. A Gallup poll shows that nearly 20% of people in the workforce are actively disengaged. That number includes leaders and managers as well. 

Bring it to their attention in a positive way. 

If you get along with your boss and feel like they should be more engaged in your weekly activities, let them know. Approach the situation in a way that is encouraging and uplifting to them. Something like, “Would it be ok for us to have a weekly check-in so that I can make sure I’m executing well on your priorities?” works much better than, “I don’t see you enough. Can we get some time together?” 

Make your leader feel like you value their leadership and their time as opposed to guilting them to do it. The tactic doesn’t work in relationships at home much less at the workplace. 

The leader is both absent and the wrong fit. 

Your leader may be absent and the wrong fit. You’re happy that they are aren’t around because that means you have to deal with them less. In this circumstance, the leader is not often a micromanager. Use that to your advantage. 

First, understand the priorities, rules of engagement and boundaries then set off and lead yourself or your team well. In this scenario, you are going to have to pick up the reins and run it like you are your boss. (Which really should be how you should lead yourself anyway.) Sometimes people will step back, allow things to stay mediocre or fail and just point the finger at the leader at the end of the day.

I know the value and power of modeling the behavior that you want to get from others. Don’t let your boss’s disengagement drive you in the same direction. Step up and lead yourself well. Lead yourself and your team how you would like for someone to lead you. 

Fill your cup in different ways. 

An absent leader can lead to frustration because you aren’t supported. You and your team can lose confidence and feel less valued in what you do. Find guidance from other areas. This could be from other teams that are working on the same project, a mentor in the company or a trusted advisor in HR. There are many people involved in your life and career journey. If you don’t get enough from your boss, supplement the rest in other avenues. 

Having an absent leader can be a challenge, especially if your personality type is one that needs recognition and affirmation on your job. Do your best to connect with them. Continue to lead yourself with excellence and do your best. Just because your boss is absent doesn’t mean that you have to be as well. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

How to be a great mentor

How to be a great mentor

It can feel great when someone asks you to be their mentor.  It means that they highly value your input and want to model at least part of their life after you. Mentoring can often be a bit intimidating at first.  What can I truly offer someone else? I’m not some wise sage that gives out advice? What if I lead them astray?

Let me encourage you that you can be a great mentor without being Yoda. 

Have confidence

If you tell yourself that you aren’t worthy to mentor someone, you will become a self-fulling prophecy. Have confidence that the person wants to hear and learn from you. Having confidence doesn’t mean you have to act like a know-it-all or make up answers if you don’t have one.  Confidence is avoiding the imposter syndrome to lead in a meaningful and relaxed way. 

Listen more than you talk

Just as you should do in your regular leadership, you should listen more than you coach in mentoring sessions. Although the person is there to hear from you, you need to understand where they are and all the details of the situation before you dispense your knowledge.

I’ve seen mentoring relationships fizzle out because the mentor spent the entire time talking. Afterward, the mentor is at a loss as to why it didn’t work out or will point to a personality difference. No matter how much your mentee looks up to you, they don’t want to just listen to a lecture and stories the whole time that you are together. Have a goal to learn something new about your person after each session. 

Keep a neutral approach

A mentor should want their person to be successful. That doesn’t mean that you always have to take their side in an issue that they are going through in life or at work. In fact, the more neutral you are, the more it requires the person to step back, reflect and have a bigger view of what the situation is. 

Know your limits. 

I caution leaders and mentors not to lose their effectiveness by bringing on too many people to coach. It can be tempting to pick up more than you can handle once you get the hang of mentoring and start to see the fruits of your efforts. 

Be aware of your load, the commitment level to each person and set parameters for the length of the mentorship. Perhaps its while the person is in college, or until they find a job. Mentorships don’t have to be lifelong commitments to each other. I typically do year-long commitments and then evaluate based on their progress, who else wants to be mentored and my current life load. 

Remember that you don’t have to be perfect to be a good mentor.  Recognize your workload, listen and be the guide that the person wants you to be. Invest in your person so that they can develop others. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

How to find a great mentor

How to find a great mentor

I owe a lot of my success in life to my mentors and advisors who have helped me along my life journey. Their guidance kept me on the right path when things got confusing, helped me make the right decisions during difficult times and supported and encouraged me in my growth. 

Where do you look to find a mentor and how do you go about starting that kind of relationship? It can be less intimidating if you know where to look and how to go about it. 

Look inside your company

This can be very challenging if you work in a company that is either really small or really large. If it’s small, you just don’t have a large pool to choose from. If it’s exceptionally large, it becomes so big that it can be overwhelming to know where to begin.  

If you utilize your professional network to help you find a mentor be sure to follow these steps:

  1. The mutual connection should reach out on your behalf to the potential mentor first to see if they would be interested.
  2. Reach out to the potential person after your connection says that it’s ok to contact. 
  3. Introduce yourself and set up an introduction time that’s informal and works around their schedule. 

Skipping these steps and trying to establish a mentor relationship cold will not likely end as you want it to. They may not know who you are, your request can catch them off guard and the person may not be in a place to be able to take you on.  

Look outside your company

Don’t neglect your network outside your company when searching for a mentor. Your church, family friends and other community connections all have significant value. It’s also ok to have a couple of mentors that have different strengths and perspectives to help you along the way. 

Respect and give back. 

There shouldn’t be a one way street between you and your mentor where you are taking all the value and adding nothing in return. Look for ways to add value back to your mentor. This could be by lightening their load in some way, offering your own expertise on a topic or using your network to help grow theirs. No matter your life stage, you have something that you can offer back. 

Be sure to show up on time and prepared when you have time with your mentor. It shows them that you have respect for their time and that you value the time that you have together. 

Ensure that it’s the right fit. 

The person that you want as a mentor may be a highly successful business executive and lives in a home that looks just like your dream house. No matter how much you want the relationship, it will never work out if the two of you do not fit personality wise. Just as in all relationships, without chemistry, there can not be a long lasting meaningful relationship. 

Getting to know the potential mentor a little on a personal level before you enter into that relationship is helpful. If that’s not possible, use the first meeting to get to know each other and see if you are a match for each other. It’s best to know early and not pursue than you both lose engagement early on. That time could be used on a mentor that you hit it off with instead. 

Finding the right mentor can truly accelerate your personal and professional growth. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Finding leadership in running

Finding leadership in running

Being an athlete is a state of mind which is not bound by age, performance or place in the running pack. 
-Jeff Galloway

Jeff Galloway is a world-famous runner and coach who popularized interval training, or the Run, Walk, Run method as he calls it. We have become great friends over the years and I’ve had the honor to run several races with him and his wife Barbara. No matter if we are at mile one, or mile 12 he leads himself well and encourages everyone that he comes in contact with. 

I love Jeff’s quote because it captures the right thought process and mindset for runners and athletes. You could also easily replace a few words and see how it applies to our leadership walk. 

 Being a leader is a state of mind which is not bound by age, what others do or your place in the organization. 

There are several leadership lessons that we can learn from running. 

Patience leads to strength

It seems like all things worth doing are at least a little bit challenging to start, otherwise, everyone would do it.  It might feel discouraging after your first couple of runs. Keep at it and your strength will increase. It may also feel discouraging when you are in a new role and things aren’t happening as fast as you wanted them to. Keep at it and remain confident that your work is going to pay off.  

Consistency is key

I ran over 100 races between 2016-2018. It got to the point where I was running so many races that I didn’t need to run very often between events and I still could perform well. It culminated with my second ultra marathon. (Passing the Baton podcast #128: What 37.5 miles taught me) I did two things after that race.  #1 I stopped running. #2 I ate everything in sight. That pattern went on for five months. I gained about 20lbs and needed to get back in the swing of things to get my health back where I wanted it. 

My first run was a beautiful 56 degrees in Atlanta.  I should have had a great run but instead, I got ripped to pieces. My legs were killing me, my foot injury flared up and I clocked my slowest time in over 4 years. I knew I was going to be off my A game, but I didn’t realize it would be that much. 

Your leadership is the same way. You are going to pay some type of consequence if you let off of your standard, stop pushing yourself for growth, or fail to hold your team accountable. The consequence could be as small as some missed sales with customers or as large as being passed over for the promotion that you always wanted. Stay consistent to avoid the pains of ramping back up to your standard. It’s definitely easier to keep it going that it is to start all over. 

It is what you make it

Your enjoyment of running is exactly what you make of it. If you find some running friends or make it about the journey, you get a much more fulfilling experience. If you only focus on the negatives, (pain, tiredness, time investment, etc) then you’ll never like it and you won’t perform well. Likewise in your leadership and life walk, if you only focus on the excuses and circumstances that hold you back, you will never have fun or reach your greatest potential. 

Know who you are

Too many people think that because they aren’t “fast” that it means that they are not runners. If you are getting out there and hitting the road, trail or treadmill, you are a runner. It’s a state of mind, just as Jeff said.  You don’t have to lead 100 people to be called a leader. Do you lead yourself well? Do you try to help by being a great example for others? Then you are a leader. You don’t need a title before you can become a leader any more than a runner needs a medal before they call themselves a runner.

Running can teach us patience, the ability to find joy in the journey and how we can build strength through our consistency. Enjoy your run and your role as a leader. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

*You can catch some of the race recaps of my runs with Jeff and Barbara over at Thedisneyrunner.com

Finding leadership in video games

Finding leadership in video games

We don’t get to choose how we start in this life. Real greatness is what you do with the hand that you’ve been dealt. 
-Victor Sullivan

(Character from Uncharted video game series)

It’s safe to say that video games have firmly established themselves in most people’s lives in some form. The latest PlayStation console has sold nearly 100 million units. Games dominate the sales in Apple’s app store and people make a living by recording themselves playing games. Gaming has become a serious business.

Leadership and gaming don’t naturally go hand in hand. In fact, while doing research on the topic, I found many open debates among the gaming community about the value that a game has on your leadership abilities. While there is not currently a “leadership game” there are several benefits that gaming can give us as we grow our leadership. 

It pays to be organized and notice the small things. 

Games have become so much more complex than the Donkey Kong days. Red Dead Redemption 2 has been one of the most popular games of the last year. In the game, you play as a cowboy as you struggle with life living in a posse.  That’s a deceptively simple concept. To get everything, you have to keep up an extensive list of animals that you kill, parts that you collect and then you have to find items and other secrets. I had to write out a list while playing it just to keep track of it all.

Games can teach us the value of organization and to look and enjoy the small things in life. My favorite moments in Red Dead Redemption 2 are the small details that you only see if you slow down long enough and look. It’s a great lesson for us as we all try to hurry through the day and week. 

Solid teamwork saves the day.

By far the most popular online team battle game out there is Fortnite. With over 200 million downloads, you can play with three other people in a team to defeat the other players and win the game. You have to have great teamwork and coordination in order to have any chance at a win. It’s easy to spot the teams that work together in the game. They stick together and support each other. Most teams split up, do their own individual thing and get picked off.

Just as in real life, playing on a great team is fun and rewarding. It takes work, effort, sacrifice, and communication. You learn those lessons as you get better in team-based games. 

Other benefits

  • Decision-making skills. Many games change as you make decisions along the way. Your game could end dramatically different than mine because of the choices that we made as we played. Many games will show you the benefits and consequences of the choices that you make. 
  • Being a great winner/loser. A gamer needs the self-awareness here to grow, but games can help us be better winners and losers in life. No one likes a sore winner or loser. Don’t gloat in the win and don’t throw a fit if you lose. 

The longer you play, the higher the difficulty. 

Every game out there increases in difficulty the longer that you play it. It’s the continuing challenge and the story that makes a game great. What you do early on prepares you for the next chapter or level. Isn’t life the same way?  You start off carefree, with little responsibility and you become stronger and wiser as life goes on. Your circumstances certainly become more complicated, and you use the lessons and relationship that you built earlier to help you make it through your current challenge.  

You may not walk away from a game and become an instant high performing leader. You can, however, learn little life lessons along the way that you can transfer to how you lead yourself and your team. Just be sure to avoid putting “I won Victory Royale 5 times in Fortnite” on your resume or college application. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH

Finding leadership in puzzles

Finding leadership in puzzles

My family really enjoys doing puzzles. It gives us an activity that we can all work on together and separately that doesn’t involve technology. Sometimes it’s a very passive activity. We’ll work on it for a few minutes and walk away. Other times it’s the three of us going at it for a 30-minute session.  I realized that puzzles can teach us a bit about leadership during my most recent puzzle session with my wife. 

Sometimes in leadership, you walk into a mess

When you first open the box to a new puzzle, it’s a chaotic mess.  The fun of puzzles is putting it all back together and establishing order where there was chaos. Life in your leadership walk will be exactly the same. Sometimes you’ll walk into a 250 piece puzzle size mess that you can easily put back together and other times it will be a 3,000 piece monster that takes a team effort to accomplish. 

Knowing that problems are going to happen and embracing them instead of focusing on how they impact you, will help you get the puzzle together quicker. 

Be clear on your starting points

You’ve got all the pieces spilled out on to the table. Now what? You’ve got to pick a clear starting point and go from there. My wife loves to knock out the edge first and doesn’t like to even look at anything else until that is done. Only after the edge is put together does she then plan what her next focus point will be. 

It can be overwhelming when you walk into a very complex challenge or problem. Assess the situation, and chose what you feel is the most logical and impactful starting point. Communicate the plan to the team so that they can be effective in their work towards the common goal. 

As much as you may want to, you can’t do everything at once. Sharon often reminds me of this point as we work on our puzzles together. (And that’s how this topic came to be!)

Embrace other people’s styles

We all have our own unique styles and ways that we go about accomplishing a goal. Make sure to embrace other people’s styles as you work toward the goal. Sharon and I are very different in our approach to how we work on our puzzle. She pulls out the pieces, organizes and works on sections. I have the odd ability to look at the pile and pull out individual pieces and know where they fit.  Together we make a pretty good combination in reaching our goal. 

If we bickered about our different approaches, we would become very ineffective to the point that it could impact our relationship. Instead of fighting someone’s unique style, look for ways that the person can contribute in a positive way to your team’s effort. 

There are no easy walks for a good leader. Be prepared for those times when you walk into a mess. Formulate your plan, embrace your team’s unique makeup and have fun along the way. 

Make a better tomorrow. 
-ZH